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"Marcus Tullius Cicero", in Wikipedia.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (3 January 106 BC – 7 December 43 BC) was a Roman philosopher, politician, lawyer, orator, political theorist, consul, and constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the Roman equestrian order, and was one of Rome’s greatest orators and prose stylists.

His influence on the Latin language was so immense that the subsequent history of prose in not only Latin but European languages up to the 19th century was said to be either a reaction against or a return to his style. According to Michael Grant, “the influence of Cicero upon the history of European literature and ideas greatly exceeds that of any other prose writer in any language”. Cicero introduced the Romans to the chief schools of Greek philosophy and created a Latin philosophical vocabulary (with neologisms such as evidentia, humanitas, qualitas, quantitas, and essentia) distinguishing himself as a linguist, translator, and philosopher.

Petrarch’s rediscovery of Cicero’s letters is often credited for initiating the 14th-century Renaissance in public affairs, humanism, and classical Roman culture. According to Polish historian Tadeusz Zieliński, “Renaissance was above all things a revival of Cicero, and only after him and through him of the rest of Classical antiquity.” The peak of Cicero’s authority and prestige came during the 18th-century Enlightenment, and his impact on leading Enlightenment thinkers such as John Locke, David Hume, and Montesquieu was substantial. His works rank among the most influential in European culture, and today still constitute one of the most important bodies of primary material for the writing and revision of Roman history, especially the last days of the Roman Republic.

Though he was an accomplished orator and successful lawyer, Cicero believed his political career was his most important achievement. It was during his consulship that the Second Catilinarian Conspiracy attempted to overthrow the government through an attack on the city by outside forces, and Cicero suppressed the revolt by executing five conspirators without due process. During the chaotic latter half of the 1st century BC marked by civil wars and the dictatorship of Gaius Julius Caesar, Cicero championed a return to the traditional republican government. Following Julius Caesar’s death Cicero became an enemy of Mark Antony in the ensuing power struggle, attacking him in a series of speeches. He was proscribed as an enemy of the state by the Second Triumvirate and consequently executed by soldiers operating on their behalf in 43 BC after having been intercepted during attempted flight from the Italian peninsula. His severed hands and head were then, as a final revenge of Mark Antony, displayed in the Roman Forum.

Cicero was born in 106 BC in Arpinum, a hill town 100 kilometers (62 mi) southeast of Rome. His father was a well-to-do member of the equestrian order and possessed good connections in Rome. However, being a semi-invalid, he could not enter public life and studied extensively to compensate. Although little is known about Cicero’s mother, Helvia, it was common for the wives of important Roman citizens to be responsible for the management of the household. Cicero’s brother Quintus wrote in a letter that she was a thrifty housewife.

Cicero’s cognomen, or personal surname, comes from the Latin for chickpea, cicer. Plutarch explains that the name was originally given to one of Cicero’s ancestors who had a cleft in the tip of his nose resembling a chickpea. However, it is more likely that Cicero’s ancestors prospered through the cultivation and sale of chickpeas. Romans often chose down-to-earth personal surnames: the famous family names of Fabius, Lentulus, and Piso come from the Latin names of beans, lentils, and peas. Plutarch writes that Cicero was urged to change this deprecatory name when he entered politics, but refused, saying that he would make Cicero more glorious than Scaurus (“Swollen-ankled”) and Catulus (“Puppy”).

During this period in Roman history, to be considered “cultured” meant being able to speak both Latin and Greek. Cicero was therefore educated in the teachings of the ancient Greek philosophers, poets and historians; he obtained much of his understanding of the theory and practice of rhetoric from the Greek poet Archias. Cicero used his knowledge of Greek to translate many of the theoretical concepts of Greek philosophy into Latin, thus translating Greek philosophical works for a larger audience. It was precisely his broad education that tied him to the traditional Roman elite.

According to Plutarch, Cicero was an extremely talented student, whose learning attracted attention from all over Rome, affording him the opportunity to study Roman law under Quintus Mucius Scaevola. Cicero’s fellow students were Gaius Marius Minor, Servius Sulpicius Rufus (who became a famous lawyer, one of the few whom Cicero considered superior to himself in legal matters), and Titus Pomponius. The latter two became Cicero’s friends for life, and Pomponius (who later received the nickname “Atticus”, and whose sister married Cicero’s brother) would become, in Cicero’s own words, “as a second brother”, with both maintaining a lifelong correspondence.

Cicero wanted to pursue a public career in politics along the steps of the Cursus honorum. In 90 BC–88 BC, he served both Gnaeus Pompeius Strabo and Lucius Cornelius Sulla as they campaigned in the Social War, though he had no taste for military life, being an intellectual first and foremost. Cicero started his career as a lawyer around 83–81 BC. His first major case, of which a written record is still extant, was his 80 BC defense of Sextus Roscius on the charge of patricide. Taking this case was a courageous move for Cicero; patricide was considered an appalling crime, and the people whom Cicero accused of the murder, the most notorious being Chrysogonus, were favorites of Sulla. At this time it would have been easy for Sulla to have the unknown Cicero murdered. Cicero’s defense was an indirect challenge to the dictator Sulla, and on the strength of his case, Roscius was acquitted.

Cicero’s case was divided into three parts. The first part detailed exactly the charge brought by Ericius. Cicero explained how a rustic son of a farmer, who lives off the pleasures of his own land, would not have gained anything from committing patricide because he would have eventually inherited his father’s land anyway. The second part concerned the boldness and greed of two of the accusers, Magnus and Capito. Cicero told the jury that they were the more likely perpetrators of murder because the two were greedy, both for conspiring together against a fellow kinsman and Magnus, for his boldness and for being unashamed to appear in court to support the false charges. The third part explained that Chrysogonus had immense political power, and the accusation was successfully made due to that power. Even though Chrysogonus may not have been what Cicero said he was, through rhetoric, Cicero successfully made him appear to be a foreign freed man who was devious enough to take advantage of the aftermath of the civil war, and to prosper. Cicero surmised that it showed what kind of a person he was and that something like murder was not beneath him.

In 79 BC, Cicero left for Greece, Asia Minor and Rhodes, perhaps because of the potential wrath of Sulla. Charting a middle path between the competing Attic and Asiatic styles, he would ultimately become considered second only to Demosthenes among history’s orators.

Cicero’s interest in philosophy figured heavily in his later career and led to him providing a comprehensive account of Greek philosophy for a Roman audience, including creating a philosophical vocabulary in Latin. In 87 BC, Philo of Larissa, the head of the Academy that was founded by Plato in Athens about 300 years earlier, arrived in Rome. Cicero, “inspired by an extraordinary zeal for philosophy”, sat enthusiastically at his feet and absorbed Plato’s philosophy. Cicero said of Plato’s Dialogues, that if Zeus were to speak, he would use their language.

Cicero married Terentia probably at the age of 27, in 79 BC. According to the upper class mores of the day it was a marriage of convenience, but endured harmoniously for some 30 years. Terentia’s family was wealthy, probably the plebeian noble house of Terenti Varrones, thus meeting the needs of Cicero’s political ambitions in both economic and social terms. She had a half-sister named Fabia, who as a child had become a Vestal Virgin, a very great honour. Terentia was a strong willed woman and (citing Plutarch) “she took more interest in her husband’s political career than she allowed him to take in household affairs.”

In the 50s BC, Cicero’s letters to Terentia became shorter and colder. He complained to his friends that Terentia had betrayed him but did not specify in which sense. Perhaps the marriage simply could not outlast the strain of the political upheaval in Rome, Cicero’s involvement in it, and various other disputes between the two. The divorce appears to have taken place in 51 BC or shortly before. In 46 or 45 BC, Cicero married a young girl, Publilia, who had been his ward. It is thought that Cicero needed her money, particularly after having to repay the dowry of Terentia, who came from a wealthy family. This marriage did not last long.

Although his marriage to Terentia was one of convenience, it is commonly known that Cicero held great love for his daughter Tullia. When she suddenly became ill in February 45 BC and died after having seemingly recovered from giving birth to a son in January, Cicero was stunned. “I have lost the one thing that bound me to life” he wrote to Atticus. Atticus told him to come for a visit during the first weeks of his bereavement, so that he could comfort him when his pain was at its greatest. In Atticus’s large library, Cicero read everything that the Greek philosophers had written about overcoming grief, “but my sorrow defeats all consolation.” Caesar and Brutus as well as Servius Sulpicius Rufus sent him letters of condolence.

Cicero hoped that his son Marcus would become a philosopher like him, but Marcus himself wished for a military career. He joined the army of Pompey in 49 BC and after Pompey’s defeat at Pharsalus 48 BC, he was pardoned by Caesar. Cicero sent him to Athens to study as a disciple of the peripatetic philosopher Kratippos in 48 BC, but he used this absence from “his father’s vigilant eye” to “eat, drink and be merry.” After Cicero’s murder he joined the army of the Liberatores but was later pardoned by Augustus. Augustus’ bad conscience for not having objected to Cicero’s being put on the proscription list during the Second Triumvirate led him to aid considerably Marcus Minor’s career. He became an augur, and was nominated consul in 30 BC together with Augustus. As such, he was responsible for revoking the honors of Mark Antony, who was responsible for the proscription, and could in this way take revenge. Later he was appointed proconsul of Syria and the province of Asia.

His first office was as one of the twenty annual quaestors, a training post for serious public administration in a diversity of areas, but with a traditional emphasis on administration and rigorous accounting of public monies under the guidance of a senior magistrate or provincial commander. Cicero served as quaestor in western Sicily in 75 BC and demonstrated honesty and integrity in his dealings with the inhabitants. As a result, the grateful Sicilians asked Cicero to prosecute Gaius Verres, a governor of Sicily, who had badly plundered the province. His prosecution of Gaius Verres was a great forensic success for Cicero. Governor Gaius Verres hired the prominent lawyer of a noble family Quintus Hortensius Hortalus. After a lengthy period in Sicily collecting testimonials and evidence and persuading witnesses to come forward, Cicero returned to Rome and won the case in a series of dramatic court battles. His unique style of oratory set him apart from the flamboyant Hortensius. Upon the conclusion of this case, Cicero came to be considered the greatest orator in Rome. The view that Cicero may have taken the case for reasons of his own is viable. Hortensius was, at this point, known as the best lawyer in Rome; to beat him would guarantee much success and the prestige that Cicero needed to start his career. Cicero’s oratorical skill is shown in his character assassination of Verres and various other techniques of persuasion used on the jury. One such example is found in the speech Against Verres I, where he states “with you on this bench, gentlemen, with Marcus Acilius Glabrio as your president, I do not understand what Verres can hope to achieve”. Oratory was considered a great art in ancient Rome and an important tool for disseminating knowledge and promoting oneself in elections, in part because there were no regular newspapers or mass media. Cicero was neither a patrician nor a plebeian noble; his rise to political office despite his relatively humble origins has traditionally been attributed to his brilliance as an orator.

Cicero grew up in a time of civil unrest and war. Sulla’s victory in the first of a series of civil wars led to a new constitutional framework that undermined libertas (liberty), the fundamental value of the Roman Republic. Nonetheless, Sulla’s reforms strengthened the position of the equestrian class, contributing to that class’s growing political power. Cicero was both an Italian eques and a novus homo, but more importantly he was a Roman constitutionalist. His social class and loyalty to the Republic ensured that he would “command the support and confidence of the people as well as the Italian middle classes”. The optimates faction never truly accepted Cicero; and this undermined his efforts to reform the Republic while preserving the constitution. Nevertheless, he successfully ascended the cursus honorum, holding each magistracy at or near the youngest possible age: quaestor in 75 BC (age 31), aedile in 69 BC (age 37), and praetor in 66 BC (age 40), when he served as president of the “Reclamation” (or extortion) Court. He was then elected consul at age 43.

Cicero was elected consul for the year 63 BC. His co-consul for the year, Gaius Antonius Hybrida, played a minor role. During his year in office, he thwarted a conspiracy centered on assassinating him and overthrowing the Roman Republic with the help of foreign armed forces, led by Lucius Sergius Catilina. Cicero procured a senatus consultum ultimum (a declaration of martial law) and drove Catiline from the city with four vehement speeches (the Catiline Orations), which to this day remain outstanding examples of his rhetorical style. The Orations listed Catiline and his followers’ debaucheries, and denounced Catiline’s senatorial sympathizers as roguish and dissolute debtors clinging to Catiline as a final and desperate hope. Cicero demanded that Catiline and his followers leave the city. At the conclusion of his first speech, Catiline hurriedly left the Senate, (which was being held in the Temple of Jupiter Stator). In his following speeches, Cicero did not directly address Catiline. He delivered the second and third orations before the people, and the last one again before the Senate. By these speeches, Cicero wanted to prepare the Senate for the worst possible case; he also delivered more evidence against Catiline.

Catiline fled and left behind his followers to start the revolution from within while Catiline assaulted the city with an army of “moral bankrupts and honest fanatics”. Catiline had attempted to involve the Allobroges, a tribe of Transalpine Gaul, in their plot, but Cicero, working with the Gauls, was able to seize letters which incriminated the five conspirators and forced them to confess their crimes in front of the Senate.

The Senate then deliberated upon the conspirators’ punishment. As it was the dominant advisory body to the various legislative assemblies rather than a judicial body, there were limits to its power; however, martial law was in effect, and it was feared that simple house arrest or exile – the standard options – would not remove the threat to the state. At first Decimus Silanus spoke for the “extreme penalty”; many were then swayed by Julius Caesar, who decried the precedent it would set and argued in favor of life imprisonment in various Italian towns. Cato the Younger then rose in defence of the death penalty and all the Senate finally agreed on the matter. Cicero had the conspirators taken to the Tullianum, the notorious Roman prison, where they were strangled. Cicero himself accompanied the former consul Publius Cornelius Lentulus Sura, one of the conspirators, to the Tullianum. Cicero received the honorific “Pater Patriae” for his efforts to suppress the conspiracy, but lived thereafter in fear of trial or exile for having put Roman citizens to death without trial.

After the conspirators were put to death, Cicero was proud of his accomplishment. Some of his political enemies argued that though the act gained Cicero popularity, he exaggerated the extent of his success. He overestimated his popularity again several years later after being exiled from Italy and then allowed back from exile. At this time, he claimed that the Republic would be restored along with him.

In 60 BC Julius Caesar invited Cicero to be the fourth member of his existing partnership with Pompey and Marcus Licinius Crassus, an assembly that would eventually be called the First Triumvirate. Cicero refused the invitation because he suspected it would undermine the Republic.

In 58 BC, Publius Clodius Pulcher, the tribune of the plebs, introduced a law (the Leges Clodiae) threatening exile to anyone who executed a Roman citizen without a trial. Cicero, having executed members of the Second Catilinarian Conspiracy four years previously without formal trial, and having had a public falling out with Clodius, was clearly the intended target of the law. Cicero argued that the senatus consultum ultimum indemnified him from punishment, and he attempted to gain the support of the senators and consuls, especially of Pompey. When help was not forthcoming, he went into exile. He arrived at Thessalonica, Greece, on May 23, 58 BC. Cicero’s exile caused him to fall into depression. He wrote to Atticus: “Your pleas have prevented me from committing suicide. But what is there to live for? Don’t blame me for complaining. My afflictions surpass any you ever heard of earlier”. After the intervention of recently elected tribune Titus Annius Milo, the senate voted in favor of recalling Cicero from exile. Clodius cast the single vote against the decree. Cicero returned to Italy on August 5, 57 BC, landing at Brundisium. He was greeted by a cheering crowd, and, to his delight, his beloved daughter Tullia.

Cicero tried to re-enter politics, but his attack on a bill of Caesar’s proved unsuccessful. The conference at Luca in 56 BC forced Cicero to recant and support the triumvirate. After this, a cowed Cicero concentrated on his literary works. It is uncertain whether he was directly involved in politics for the following few years. He reluctantly accepted a promagistracy in Cilicia for 51 BC, because there were few other eligible governors available as a result of a legislative requirement enacted by Pompey in 52 BC, specifying an interval of five years between a consulship or praetorship and a provincial command. He served as proconsul of Cilicia from May 51 to November 50 BC. Accompanied by his brother Quintus as a legate, he was mostly spared from warfare due to internal conflict among the Parthians, yet for storming a mountain fortress and defeating the last independent Cilicians he acquired the title of imperator.

The struggle between Pompey and Julius Caesar grew more intense in 50 BC. Cicero favoured Pompey, seeing him as a defender of the senate and Republican tradition, but at that time avoided openly alienating Caesar. When Caesar invaded Italy in 49 BC, Cicero fled Rome. Caesar, seeking the legitimacy an endorsement by a senior senator would provide, courted Cicero’s favour, but even so Cicero slipped out of Italy and traveled to Dyrrachium (Epidamnos), Illyria, where Pompey’s staff was situated. Cicero traveled with the Pompeian forces to Pharsalus in 48 BC, though he was quickly losing faith in the competence and righteousness of the Pompeian side. Eventually, he provoked the hostility of his fellow senator Cato, who told him that he would have been of more use to the cause of the optimates if he had stayed in Rome. After Caesar’s victory at Pharsalus, Cicero returned to Rome only very cautiously. Caesar pardoned him and Cicero tried to adjust to the situation and maintain his political work, hoping that Caesar might revive the Republic and its institutions.

In a letter to Varro on c. April 20, 46 BC, Cicero outlined his strategy under Caesar’s dictatorship. Cicero, however, was taken completely by surprise when the Liberatores assassinated Caesar on the ides of March, 44 BC. Cicero was not included in the conspiracy, even though the conspirators were sure of his sympathy. Marcus Junius Brutus called out Cicero’s name, asking him to restore the republic when he lifted the bloodstained dagger after the assassination. A letter Cicero wrote in February 43 BC to Trebonius, one of the conspirators, began, “How I could wish that you had invited me to that most glorious banquet on the Ides of March”! Cicero became a popular leader during the period of instability following the assassination. He had no respect for Mark Antony, who was scheming to take revenge upon Caesar’s murderers. In exchange for amnesty for the assassins, he arranged for the Senate to agree not to declare Caesar to have been a tyrant, which allowed the Caesarians to have lawful support and kept Caesar’s reforms and policies intact.

Cicero and Antony now became the two leading men in Rome—Cicero as spokesman for the Senate; Antony as consul, leader of the Caesarian faction, and unofficial executor of Caesar’s public will. Relations between the two, never friendly, worsened after Cicero claimed that Antony was taking liberties in interpreting Caesar’s wishes and intentions. Octavian was Caesar’s adopted son and heir; after he returned to Italy, Cicero began to play him against Antony. He praised Octavian, declaring he would not make the same mistakes as his father. He attacked Antony in a series of speeches he called the Philippics, after Demosthenes’s denunciations of Philip II of Macedon. At the time Cicero’s popularity as a public figure was unrivalled.

Cicero supported Decimus Junius Brutus Albinus as governor of Cisalpine Gaul (Gallia Cisalpina) and urged the Senate to name Antony an enemy of the state. The speech of Lucius Piso, Caesar’s father-in-law, delayed proceedings against Antony. Antony was later declared an enemy of the state when he refused to lift the siege of Mutina, which was in the hands of Decimus Brutus. Cicero’s plan to drive out Antony failed. Antony and Octavian reconciled and allied with Lepidus to form the Second Triumvirate after the successive battles of Forum Gallorum and Mutina. The Triumvirate began proscribing their enemies and potential rivals immediately after legislating the alliance into official existence for a term of five years with consular imperium. Cicero and all of his contacts and supporters were numbered among the enemies of the state, and reportedly, Octavian argued for two days against Cicero being added to the list.

Cicero was one of the most viciously and doggedly hunted among the proscribed. He was viewed with sympathy by a large segment of the public and many people refused to report that they had seen him. He was caught December 7, 43 BC leaving his villa in Formiae in a litter going to the seaside where he hoped to embark on a ship destined for Macedonia. When his killers – Herennius (a centurion) and Popilius (a tribune) – arrived, Cicero’s own slaves said they had not seen him, but he was given away by Philologus, a freed slave of his brother Quintus Cicero.

Cicero’s last words are said to have been, “There is nothing proper about what you are doing, soldier, but do try to kill me properly.” He bowed to his captors, leaning his head out of the litter in a gladiatorial gesture to ease the task. By baring his neck and throat to the soldiers, he was indicating that he wouldn’t resist. According to Plutarch, Herennius first slew him, then cut off his head. On Antony’s instructions his hands, which had penned the Philippics against Antony, were cut off as well; these were nailed along with his head on the Rostra in the Forum Romanum according to the tradition of Marius and Sulla, both of whom had displayed the heads of their enemies in the Forum. Cicero was the only victim of the proscriptions to be displayed in that manner. According to Cassius Dio (in a story often mistakenly attributed to Plutarch), Antony’s wife Fulvia took Cicero’s head, pulled out his tongue, and jabbed it repeatedly with her hairpin in final revenge against Cicero’s power of speech.

Cicero’s son, Marcus Tullius Cicero Minor, during his year as a consul in 30 BC, avenged his father’s death, to a certain extent, when he announced to the Senate Mark Antony’s naval defeat at Actium in 31 BC by Octavian and his capable commander-in-chief, Agrippa.

Octavian (or Augustus, as he was later called) is reported to have praised Cicero as a patriot and a scholar of meaning in later times, within the circle of his family. However, it was the acquiescence of Augustus that had allowed Cicero to be killed, as Cicero was proscribed by the new triumvirate.

Cicero’s career as a statesman was marked by inconsistencies and a tendency to shift his position in response to changes in the political climate. His indecision may be attributed to his sensitive and impressionable personality; he was prone to overreaction in the face of political and private change. “Would that he had been able to endure prosperity with greater self-control, and adversity with more fortitude!” wrote C. Asinius Pollio, a contemporary Roman statesman and historian.

Cicero has been traditionally considered the master of Latin prose, with Quintilian declaring that Cicero was “not the name of a man, but of eloquence itself.” The English words Ciceronian (meaning “eloquent”) and cicerone (meaning “local guide”) derive from his name. He is credited with transforming Latin from a modest utilitarian language into a versatile literary medium capable of expressing abstract and complicated thoughts with clarity. Julius Caesar praised Cicero’s achievement by saying “it is more important to have greatly extended the frontiers of the Roman spirit (ingenium) than the frontiers of the Roman empire” According to John William Mackail, “Cicero’s unique and imperishable glory is that he created the language of the civilized world, and used that language to create a style which nineteen centuries have not replaced, and in some respects have hardly altered.”] Cicero was also an energetic writer with an interest in a wide variety of subjects, in keeping with the Hellenistic philosophical and rhetorical traditions in which he was trained. The quality and ready accessibility of Ciceronian texts favored very wide distribution and inclusion in teaching curricula, as suggested by an amusing graffito at Pompeii, admonishing: “You will like Cicero, or you will be whipped”. Cicero was greatly admired by influential Church Fathers such as Augustine of Hippo, who credited Cicero’s lost Hortensius for his eventual conversion to Christianity and St. Jerome, who had a feverish vision in which he was accused of being “follower of Cicero and not of Christ” before the judgment seat. This influence further increased after the Early Middle Ages in Europe, which more of his writings survived than any other Latin author. Medieval philosophers were influenced by Cicero’s writings on natural law and innate rights. Petrarch’s rediscovery of Cicero’s letters provided impetus for searches for ancient Greek and Latin writings scattered throughout European monasteries, and the subsequent rediscovery of Classical Antiquity led to the Renaissance. Subsequently, Cicero came to be synonymous with classical Latin to such an extent that a number of humanist scholars began to assert that no Latin word or phrase was to be used unless it could be found in Cicero’s works, a stance criticized by Erasmus. His voluminous correspondence, much of it addressed to his friend Atticus, has been especially influential, introducing the art of refined letter writing to European culture. Cornelius Nepos, the 1st century BC biographer of Atticus, remarked that Cicero’s letters contained such a wealth of detail “concerning the inclinations of leading men, the faults of the generals, and the revolutions in the government” that their reader had little need for a history of the period. Among Cicero’s admirers were Desiderius Erasmus, Martin Luther, and John Locke. Following the invention of Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press, De Officiis was the second book to be printed in Europe, after the Gutenberg Bible. Scholars note Cicero’s influence on the rebirth of religious toleration in the 17th century.

While Cicero the humanist deeply influenced the culture of the Renaissance, Cicero the republican inspired the Founding Fathers of the United States and the revolutionaries of the French Revolution. John Adams said of him “As all the ages of the world have not produced a greater statesman and philosopher united than Cicero, his authority should have great weight.” Jefferson names Cicero as one of a handful of major figures who contributed to a tradition “of public right” that informed his draft of the Declaration of Independence and shaped American understandings of “the common sense” basis for the right of revolution. Camille Desmoulins said of the French republicans in 1789 that they were “mostly young people who, nourished by the reading of Cicero at school, had become passionate enthusiasts for liberty”.

Jim Powell starts his book on the history of liberty with the sentence: “Marcus Tullius Cicero expressed principles that became the bedrock of liberty in the modern world.”

Likewise, no other ancient personality has inspired as much venomous dislike as Cicero, especially in more modern times. His commitment to the values of the Republic accommodated a hatred of the poor and persistent opposition to the advocates and mechanisms of popular representation. Friedrich Engels referred to him as “the most contemptible scoundrel in history” for upholding republican “democracy” while at the same time denouncing land and class reforms. Cicero has faced criticism for exaggerating the democratic qualities of republican Rome, and for defending the Roman oligarchy against the popular reforms of Caesar. Michael Parenti admits Cicero’s abilities as an orator, but finds him a vain, pompous and hypocritical personality who, when it suited him, could show public support for popular causes that he privately despised. Parenti presents Cicero’s prosecution of the Catiline conspiracy as legally flawed at least, and possibly unlawful.

Cicero also had an influence on modern astronomy. Nicolaus Copernicus, searching for ancient views on earth motion, said that he “first … found in Cicero that Hicetas supposed the earth to move.”

Cicero was declared a righteous pagan by the Early Church, and therefore many of his works were deemed worthy of preservation. The Bogomils considered him to be a rare exception of a pagan saint. Subsequent Roman and medieval Christian writers quoted liberally from his works De Re Publica (On the Commonwealth) and De Legibus (On the Laws), and much of his work has been recreated from these surviving fragments. Cicero also articulated an early, abstract conceptualization of rights, based on ancient law and custom. Of Cicero’s books, six on rhetoric have survived, as well as parts of eight on philosophy. Of his speeches, 88 were recorded, but only 58 survive.


(81 BC) Pro Quinctio (In Defense of Quinctius)
(80 BC) Pro Roscio Amerino (In Defense of Roscius of Ameria)
(70 BC) In Verrem (Against Verres)
(69 BC) Pro Fonteio (In Defense of Fonteius)
(69 BC) Pro Caecina (In Defense of Caecina)
(66 BC) Pro Cluentio (In Defense of Cluentius)
(66 BC) De Imperio Gnaei Pompei or De Lege Manilia (On the Command of Gnaeus Pompey)
(63 BC) De Lege Agraria (On the Agrarian Law proposed by Servilius Rullus)
(63 BC) In Catilinam (Against Catiline)
(63 BC) Pro Rabirio Perduellionis Reo (In Defense of Rabirius)
(62 BC) Pro Sulla (In Defense of Sulla)
(62 BC) Pro Archia Poeta (In Defense of Archias the Poet)
(59 BC) Pro Flacco (In Defense of Flaccus)
(57 BC) Post Reditum in Senatu (Speech to the Senate After His Return)
(57 BC) Post Reditum ad Quirites (Speech to the People After His Return)
(57 BC) De Domo Sua (On His House)
(57 BC) De Haruspicum Responsis (On the Response of the Haruspices)
(56 BC) Pro Sestio (In Defense of Sestius)
(56 BC) In Vatinium (Cross-examination of Vatinius)
(56 BC) Pro Caelio (In Defense of Caelius)
(56 BC) De Provinciis Consularibus (On the Consular Provinces)
(56 BC) Pro Balbo (In Defense of Balbus)
(55 BC) In Pisonem (Against Piso)
(54 BC) Pro Rabirio Postumo (In Defense of Rabirius Postumus)
(52 BC) Pro Milone (In Defense of Milo)
(46 BC) Pro Marcello (In Support of the Recall of Marcellus)
(46 BC) Pro Ligario (In Defense of Ligarius)
(45 BC) Pro Deiotaro (In Defense of King Deiotarus)
(44–43 BC) Philippicae (Philippics, against Mark Antony)


(55 BC) De Oratore ad Quintum fratrem libri tres (On the Orator, three books for his brother Quintus)
(51 BC) De Re Publica (On the Commonwealth)
(?? BC) De Legibus (On the Laws)
(46 BC) Brutus (Brutus)
(46 BC) Orator (Orator)
(45 BC) Hortensius (an exhortation to philosophy)
(45 BC) Consolatio (on grief and consolation)
(45 BC) Academica (On Academic Skepticism)
(45 BC) De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum (On the Ends of Good and Evil or On Moral Ends,[95] a book on ethics)[96]
(45 BC) Tusculanae Disputationes (Tusculan Disputations)
(45 BC) De Natura Deorum (On the Nature of the Gods)
(44 BC) Topica
(44 BC) De Divinatione (On Divination)
(44 BC) De Fato (On Fate)
(44 BC) De Amicitia (On Friendship)
(44 BC) Cato Maior de Senectute (Cato the Elder on Old Age)
(44 BC) Laelius de Amicitia (Laelius on Friendship)
(44 BC) De Gloria (On Glory)
(44 BC) De Officiis (On Duties)


Cicero’s letters to and from various public and private figures are considered some of the most reliable sources of information for the people and events surrounding the fall of the Roman Republic. While 37 books of his letters have survived into modern times, 35 more books were known to antiquity that have since been lost. These included letters to Caesar, to Pompey, to Octavian, and to his son Marcus.

Epistulae ad Atticum (Letters to Atticus; 68–43 BC)
Epistulae ad Brutum (Letters to Brutus; 43 BC)
Epistulae ad Familiares (Letters to friends; 62–43 BC)
Epistulae ad Quintum Fratrem (Letters to brother Quintus; 60/59–54 BC)


Boissier, Gaston, Cicéron et ses amis. Étude sur la société romaine du temps de César (1884)

Everitt, Anthony (2001). Cicero. A turbulent life. London: John Murray Publishers. ISBN 978-0-7195-5493-3.

Fuhrmann, Manfred (1992). Cicero and the Roman Republic. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-17879-1.

Gildenhard, Ingo (2011). Creative Eloquence: The Construction of Reality in Cicero’s Speeches. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press.

Habicht, Christian (1990). Cicero the politician. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-3872-X.

Macdonald, C. (1986). De imperio (Nachdr. d. Ausg. Basingstoke 1966. ed.). Bristol: Bristol Classical Press. ISBN 0-86292-182-1.

Palmer, Tom G. (2008). “Cicero (106–43 B.C.)”. In Hamowy, Ronald. The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE; Cato Institute. p. 63. ISBN 978-1-4129-6580-4. LCCN 2008009151. OCLC 750831024.

Parenti, Michael (2004). The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People’s History of Ancient Rome. New York: The New Press. ISBN 1-56584-942-6.

Powell, J.G.F., ed. (1995). Cicero the philosopher : twelve papers. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-814751-1.

Shackleton Bailey, D. R. (1971). Cicero. London: Duckworth. ISBN 0-7156-0574-7.

Sihler, Ernest G. (1914). Cicero of Arpinum: A Political and Literary Biography. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Treggiari, S. (2007). Terentia, Tullia and Publilia. The women of Cicero’s family. London: Routledge

Text #9521

"Quintus Tullius Cicero", in Wikipedia.

Quintus Tullius Cicero (102 BC – 43 BC) was the younger brother of the celebrated orator, philosopher and statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero. He was born into a family of the equestrian order, as the son of a wealthy landowner in Arpinum, some 100 kilometres south-east of Rome.

Cicero’s well-to-do father arranged for him to be educated with his brother in Rome, Athens and probably Rhodes in 79-77 BC. He married about 70 BC Pomponia (sister of his brother’s friend Atticus), a dominant woman of strong personality. He divorced her after a long disharmonious marriage with much bickering between the spouses in late 45 BC. His brother, Marcus, tried several times to reconcile the spouses, but to no avail. The couple had a son born in 66 BC named Quintus Tullius Cicero after his father.

Quintus was Aedile in 66 BC, Praetor in 62 BC, and Propraetor of the Province of Asia for three years 61-59 BC. Under Caesar during the Gallic Wars, he was Legatus (accompanying Caesar on his second expedition to Britain in 54 BC and surviving a Nervian siege of his camp during Ambiorix’s revolt), and under his brother in Cilicia in 51 BC. During the civil wars he supported the Pompeian faction, obtaining the pardon of Caesar later.

During the Second Triumvirate when the Roman Republic was again in civil war, Quintus, his son, and his famous brother, were all proscribed. He fled from Tusculum with his brother. Later Quintus went home to bring back money for travelling expenses. His son, Quintus minor, hid his father, and did not reveal the hiding place although he was tortured. When Quintus heard this, he gave himself up to try and save his son; however, both father and son, and his famous brother, were all killed in 43 BC, as proscribed persons.

Quintus is depicted by Caesar as a brave soldier and an inspiring military leader. At a critical moment in the Gallic Wars he rallied his legion and retrieved an apparently hopeless position. Caesar commended him for this with the words Ciceronem pro eius merito legionemque collaudat (He praised Cicero and his men very highly, as they deserved) (Bello Gallico 5.52). However, later the legate was purportedly responsible for a near-disaster in Gaul but does not receive condemnation from Caesar as a result. (Bello Gallico 6.36)

As an author he wrote during the Gallic wars four tragedies in Greek style. Three of them were titled Troas, Erigones, and Electra, but all are lost. He also wrote several poems on the second expedition of Caesar to Britannia, three epistles to Tiro (extant) and a fourth one to his brother. The long letter Commentariolum Petitionis (Little handbook on electioneering) has also survived, although its validity has been much questioned. It is in any case a valuable guide to political behaviour in Cicero’s time.

Quintus had an impulsive temperament and had fits of cruelty during military operations, a behaviour frowned on by Romans of that time. The Roman (and Stoic) ideal was to control one’s emotions even in battle. Quintus Cicero also liked old-fashioned and harsh punishments, like putting a person convicted of patricide into a sack and throwing him out in the sea (the felon was severely scourged then sewn into a stout leather bag with a dog, a snake, a rooster, and a monkey, and the bag was thrown into a river). This punishment he meted out during his propraetorship of Asia. (For the Romans, both patricide and matricide were one of the worst crimes.) His brother confesses in one of his letters to his friend Titus Pomponius Atticus (written in 51 BC while he was Proconsul of Cilicia and had taken Quintus as legatus with him) that he dares not leave Quintus alone as he is afraid of what kind of sudden ideas he might have. On the positive side, Quintus was utterly honest, even as a governor of a province, in which situation many Romans shamelessly amassed private property for themselves. He was also a well-educated man, reading Greek tragedies - and writing some tragedies himself.

The relationship between the brothers was mostly affectionate, except for a period of serious disagreement during Caesar’s dictatorship 49-44 BC. The many letters from Marcus ad Quintum fratrem show how deep and affectionate the brothers’ relationship was, though Marcus Cicero often played the role of the “older and more experienced” lecturing to his brother what was the right thing to do. Quintus might also feel at times, that the self-centred Marcus thought only how his brother might hinder or help Marcus’ own career on the Cursus honorum.


Haskell: H.J.:”this was Cicero” (1964) p.83

Everitt, Anthony: Cicero, A Turbulent Life p.xv (2001)

Rawson, E.: Cicero (1975) p.338

Kinsey, Cicero’s Speech for Roscius of Ameria

Text #9665

Editorial comment by Laura Knight-Jadczyk

Marcus Tullius Cicero who, along with his elitist backers in the Roman Senate, pulled off something rather like a Roman 9-11 false flag attack and, as a consequence, the oligarchy was able to suppress a growing tendency to rebellion within the empire and instituted a period of surveillance and terror that was very similar to the tactics employed nowadays (sans technology). The issue around which this activity revolved was whether or not the consul or the senate had the right to execute those whom they called “terrorists” without a trial; whether a person could be declared a terrorist and deprived of their natural and/or constitutional rights simply because they were accused, with no real evidence being presented to the people.

Cicero argued that, his rather iffy evidence that they were plotting terror attacks – which amounted to very little, if anything - was sufficient to deprive them of their rights as citizens. What was glaringly obvious was that the “evidence” was not just flimsy, it was most likely manufactured by Cicero and his criminal spy-network. Cicero very much needed to execute his “terrorists” right away because, if brought to trial according to the rule of law, they would have been entitled to question his evidence and bring forth their own witnesses and the progress of the situation made it abundantly clear that this was what Cicero feared most of all. Cicero also implicitly – and probably at the behest of his elite handlers – set a precedent for the senate itself, i.e. the oligarchy, to pass and carry out sentences even though it was not an authorized court.

If ordinary people wrote history, instead of members of the wealthy elite, Cicero would have been seen and described in the same light as Hitler’s Joseph Goebbels: a demagogue herding the populace into a totalitarian trap via threats of terror. More than that, what is horrifying to realize is that our history of Rome, our view of the much vaunted “democratic Roman Republic” is filtered to us through the mind and words of one of the most repellant and disgusting characters history has ever produced: Cicero. It’s as if the Third Reich won the war and all we know about history is slanted toward the Nazi propaganda.

Notice the long laudatory passage about Cicero in the Wikipedia article above. Wow! What a paragon of virtue, eh? After all that, the online encyclopedia devotes a single paragraph to the true nature of Cicero and his much vaunted, but non-existent, Roman Republic:

Likewise, no other antique personality has inspired venomous dislike as Cicero especially in more modern times. His commitment to the values of the Republic accommodated a hatred of the poor and persistent opposition to the advocates and mechanisms of popular representation. Friedrich Engels referred to him as “the most contemptible scoundrel in history” for upholding republican “democracy” while at the same time denouncing land and class reforms. Cicero has faced criticism for exaggerating the democratic qualities of republican Rome, and for defending the Roman oligarchy against the popular reforms of Caesar. Michael Parenti admits Cicero’s abilities as an orator, but finds him a vain, pompous and hypocritical personality who, when it suited him, could show public support for popular causes that he privately despised. Parenti presents Cicero’s prosecution of the Catiline conspiracy as legally flawed at least, and possibly unlawful. (

Notice that the dislike of Cicero is labeled “venomous” as though the people who dare to see Cicero as he truly was, are reptilian or something. I have to tell you that my dislike of Cicero was seeded and grew only as I read his orations and studied his private correspondence. As I went deeper and deeper into the study, my horror at this incredible falsification of history grew; I pulled on thread after thread trying to find any justification for later historians – who certainly had the same data to hand – to have lionized Cicero and to have misrepresented the ancient Roman Empire as they did, and all I found was damning condemnation of the whole lot of them.

After reading numerous studies of the life of Julius Caesar, Caesar’s own writings, the ancient historians, recent historians, books and papers about historiography and who we can trust and not trust among the ancients and why and on and on and on, there was still this gigantic problem that was defined in a very short statement at the end of historian and philologist, Luciano Canfora’s “JULIUS CAESAR: THE PEOPLE’S DICTATOR”:

When they killed him his assassins did not realize that they had eliminated the best and most far-sighted mind of their class.

This was the problem. All the history we are taught says that Caesar was a power-mad wannabe-king who destroyed Gaul, and then destroyed the Roman Republic and his heirs fought over who would succeed him, Octavian won and became Augustus, but that was cool because he was a great guy and treated the senate well, and a later emperor, Constantine, saved Christianity, so aren’t we glad they murdered Caesar? Whew! Sorry for the run-on sentence, but that is how the thing is sold to us. But a careful reading of the sources revealed something quite different. Classicist Arthur Kahn, who devoted 12 years to an in-depth study of Caesar, writes:

Caesar recognized and warned that civil war would ravage the empire if he was killed, but the self-proclaimed champions of liberty and defenders of the constitution, the subversive-hunters, the praters of piety, of patriotism and of the ancestral virtues were prepared to pull down the world if their outmoded privileges were not restored. …

The difference between Caesar and the Ciceros and the Catos of his day and of all subsequent times is that unlike them Caesar saw society as an integrity in motion; he was not confused by the apparent disconnection among social, economic, political and cultural developments. Thus he did not vacillate from week to week or even day to day in his judgments, and he was able both to evolve grandiose plans and to effect them. …

No one of his day sensed the future as he did or explored as many aspects of life experience, testing the limits of human capacities and seeking, in effect, to compel the world to adapt itself to his personal vision and aspirations. … he sought to accomplish in his [lifetime] what, in fact, was to require generations. …

Ever conscious of the corruption that threatens men commanding absolute power, he disdained to enforce conformity through repression, rejected terror as a political weapon, refused to be alarmed by rumors, scorned the use of informers and despised the hunting of “subversives.” Though harried into short temper [on occasion] and badgered by fools, he remained Caesar to the moment of his death. A man of extraordinary complexity, he possessed a penetrating intelligence coupled with a universal curiosity, an unyielding will and inexhaustible energy as well as an exuberance about the dynamic variety in life. As a foe he proved fierce and cunning, yet with an irresistible charm and a trenchant wit he captivated (and still captivates) even his enemies. …

Caesar is the greatest personality of the thousand years of Roman history. Rightfully do we continue to commemorate him in the seventh month of the year.”

How could it be that Caesar, the “greatest mind of Rome”, the greatest personality of possibly the last three thousand years, who had done so much for so many, as was patently clear even via the hostile evidence of his opponents, mainly Cicero, could be assassinated by so-called “advocates of freedom”? And after that assassination, years of war went on and on followed by the acceptance of exactly what they claimed to be rejecting in Caesar: a monarchy (in all but name) which institution Caesar probably didn’t even want? And worse, how could it be that we have sustained this view for over 700 years since the rediscovery of the historical texts about ancient Rome?

The reason is: Cicero.

All honest men killed Caesar… some lacked design, some courage, some opportunity: none lacked the will. ~ Cicero, Philippics

No bigger lie has ever been propagated.

Having begun my study in almost total ignorance of the times and personalities, though admittedly influenced by the mainstream view which I mistakenly thought to be based on good psychological knowledge, little by little I realized that this Caesar, and his Rome, as presented by most of the gentlemen historians, was one big fraud. And it had been going on for a very long time, beginning with the recovery of the works of Cicero by Petrarch in the 14th century as we learned from Wikipedia cited above. However, what I learned by wide study across many disciplines and pulling on many threads was that the facts, taken together did not support the view of Cicero and his dagger-happy pals as the good guys and Caesar as the bad guy. Even Petrarch was devastated by the discovery of Cicero’s private letters which exposed him as definitely not the person he claimed to be in his orations. His near hysterical obsession with self is decidedly ugly and repellant. But there is a problem with this. You see, we have over 900 letters of Cicero, but it is clear that rather selective pruning went on in collecting and publishing these letters. The collection is as interesting for what it does NOT include as for what it does. It is also clear that Cicero never - in his worst nightmares - imagined that his private letters would be published as they were. These factors - and more - raise the question about who published them, when and why - not to mention, who would have access to them? Those things can be figured out (even if somewhat speculatively) by asking questions such as cui bono? Who benefited from the publication and who suffered? Obviously, Cicero himself suffered the most, even though he was dead, because the letters exposed him for the sniveling, cowardly, pretentious worm he really was. The letters also expose for us the often vast differential between the public declamations of a historical individual, and what they really thought and did in private; the vast chasm between propaganda and reality.

Just how revolting and repellant a creature Cicero actually was, has been dissected with clinical precision by the eminent French historian, Jérôme Carcopino in his two volume tour-de-force, CICERO: THE SECRETS OF HIS CORRESPONDENCE, published in 1951. Carcopino’s thesis is that Cicero’s letters were published in 34-32 BC as propaganda by the man who proscribed Cicero: Octavian, the future emperor Augustus. Carcopino identifies the individuals who would have had access to the collections of letters: Cicero’s friend, Atticus and his son, Marcus, both of whom had been pardoned and welcomed into the fold of Octavian. More than that, Atticus’ daughter was married to Octavian’s general and minister, Marcus Agrippa which gives added weight to Carcopino’s theory.

Despite Carcopino’s valiant efforts to remain objective, I think that the essential nature of Cicero got to him and his revulsion emerges from time to time. Can’t say I blame him; same thing happened to me.

Without this evidence [the correspondence] we might indeed believe in [Cicero’s] virtues… Without it, we might preserve the right, if not to pay quite so much admiration to his political genius as his speeches seek to inspire in us, at least to look on him as a great statesman whom Fate ultimately betrayed, a man whose actions were guided by those moral principles and political maxims immortalized in his orations and his writings, a man who deserved a better fate than the sorrows and sufferings which befell him.

The Correspondence, however, throws the ugly side of Cicero’s character into sharp relief; it displays the inconsistencies and treacheries of his conduct, which was neither straightforward nor courageous nor disinterested. As we turn these pages whose outspokenness borders on cynicism, our enthusiasm is quenched, our illusions take flight. The politician revealed in them is so odious that his misfortunes appear as the due punishment of unpardonable faults, into which he was plunged by the miscalculations of a mind too self-centered to be clear-sighted, and by the misguided manoeuvres of a will too infirm to rise above the crises amid which his generation were engaged in strife. As regards his private life Cicero’s correspondence strips him of every rag of respectability, sparing him no vice or eccentricity; it covers him with ridicule where it does not cover him with infamy.

It will never be possible to honour Cicero for courage, modesty or far-sighted vision; these qualities he never possessed. Compared with his opponents’, however, his wiles and stratagems were often no more than childishnesses…. The fairest literary legacy which Roman Antiquity has bequeathed us is not sincere. It will henceforth require rigorous scrutiny, both pragmatic and psychological, such as no one has yet applied to it, since no one before has penetrated the ulterior motives of those who prepared it for our consumption. (Carcopino (1951) p. 565.)

Naturally, the gentlemen (and lady) historians went after Carcopino. Many of the reviewers of the original French edition nitpicked about omissions, emendations and interpretations because they saw in Cicero a deeply flawed, but still lovable guy who must have believed some of what he wrote and orated, somewhere in his mind; their investment in this belief needs no explanation. One reviewer who takes this position is Lily Ross Taylor of Bryn Mawr and Vassar, (professor of Latin), and later member of the infamous Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, as well as principal social science analyst in the Office of Strategic Services. With that background, she would naturally like Cicero; birds of a feather and all that.

Certainly, this mainstream influence coming down from the ruling elite would be an overarching influence on other academics whose bread and butter depends on toeing the party line as well. Nevertheless, the more honest and insightful of them can’t help but point out the obvious. Even one of Cicero’s biographers, D. R. Shackleton Bailey, who otherwise treated him sympathetically, wrote:

At the climax of his history of Catiline’s conspiracy Sallust introduces two contrasted personalities as preeminent above all contemporaries in virtus (virtue, courage, manliness): Caesar and Cato. Both were masters of their circumstances, Caesar bending them to his will, Cato… defying them.

Clearly, Cicero was not that sort of man. In his various phases he became what circumstances made him, sometimes paltry, sometimes almost heroic. His ambition was rooted in insufficiency. Carrying all his life a set of traditional ideas which he never consciously questioned, he seldom ignored his code, but was easily swayed and perplexed by side issues and more or less unacknowledged personal inducements. His agile mind moved on the surface of things, victim of their complexity….

He failed to realize that self-praise can defeat its end. Alongside the image of the wise and dauntless patriot which he tried to project into posterity has arisen the counter-image of a windbag, a wiseacre, a humbug, a spiteful, vainglorious egotist. And that is not because, as some of his admirers have urged, the survival of his private correspondence has placed him at a disadvantage. His published speeches betray him to a generation intolerant of his kind of cliché. The flabbiness, pomposity, and essential fatuity of Ciceronian rhetoric at its too frequent worst does him more damage than any epistolary ‘secrets’. No other antique personality has inspired such venomous dislike. His modern enemies both hate and despise him – from titanic Mommsen … to Kingsley Amis. The living Cicero was hated by some, but not despised. His gifts, matching the times, were too conspicuous. And many opponents were disarmed…

There it is: though he was “a spiteful and vainglorious egotist” he had “gifts” that enabled him to “disarm” many. That was key not only to what Cicero did during his life, but also the hold that his writings had on the minds of later readers so that our entire understanding of what was going on in Rome during those times was totally upside down. We also notice that “Shack” could have definitely used psychopathological knowledge to good advantage. He attempted to analyze Cicero with standard humanistic psychology suggesting that Cicero was just driven by overcompensation of a feeling a lack of self-esteem due to mother problems. That was his first mistake: critical correction and projecting his own psychological landscape onto Cicero to fill in the blanks or explain away the obvious pathology. So many other scholars do the same thing. After reading dozens of papers analyzing this or that person or puzzle of those times, I began to wonder if classical scholars, with a few exceptions, are able to dress themselves. Most of the papers proposing solutions for why this or that character in ancient times must have done what he did, made it glaringly obvious that many academics wouldn’t know a real psychological insight if it smacked them in the face. They were obviously not paying attention to the reality around them in any way, from the personal scale to the macro-social sphere. That, of course, raises questions about the psychopathology of academia.

The big event that exposes Cicero as a truly slimy demagogue – or worse – was what has come to be known in Historical Infamy as the Catilinarian Conspiracy. If you read the account of this alleged plot to overthrow the Republic on Wikipedia, you will learn that the general “facts of the case” as presented by Cicero and Sallust are taken pretty much at face value. But when you read Kahn’s account, with the real background of the Republic and historical events of the previous few generations, and then apply the analysis of an intel officer who searches the texts for the various bits of evidence and shines the light on them, asking the right questions, applying psychological analysis, an altogether different picture emerges. What becomes abundantly clear is Cicero’s psychopathology and the very, very high probability that he manufactured the entire conspiracy and, using agents and his own demagogic rhetoric; he literally hystericized Rome and created what amounts to a 9-11 event of the time. The conflicts that this event engendered led to Rome’s Civil War, one of the most important wars of European history and the subsequent Western Civilizations that arose from the ashes. As L. G. Pocock writes:

It was certainly the most unnecessary of wars. It involved the whole of Western civilization, and yet no really deep-seated emotions or animosities, racial, national, social, or even individual, caused the conflagration. It was, in fact, nothing but a trial of strength, with no constructive objective in view, between two men, highly educated, humane, related by marriage, not unfriendly to one another, members of the same society and the same clubs, as it were, whose interests, even, need not have been incompatible. It is generally agreed that the great majority of the senatorial aristocracy very definitely did not want the war; and it seems quite clear that the small minority, of some twenty-two, who did were powerless to commence it or wage it without the will and leadership of Pompeius. It is also agreed that Caesar, while prepared to fight for his skin and his dignitas, and to that extent responsible, did not want war and made sincere efforts both to avoid it and to stop it. It cannot be shown that the optimate minority, though they might certainly bring influence to bear upon Pompeius, were ever in a position to force his hand. They were to blame, of course, and so was Caesar; but above everything else it was Pompeius’ private war. He alone without grave detriment could have averted it, postponed it, or stopped it. It is therefore in his circumstances and his ‘psychology’ that the cause of it is to be found. …

There is much good argument to show that it was self- preservation rather than rivalry that led [Caesar] to cross the Rubicon. There is nothing to prove that he would not have been happy to remain on friendly terms with Pompeius and grant him at any rate the nominal primacy as he had done before in 56. Of Pompeius, however, it is, we fear, the sad truth; it is the real summary and simplification of the many and complicated causes of the war. …By the end of the fifties he had prepared his ‘Operation Overlord’, was confident it could not fail, and, egged on by natural jealousy and professional pride was glad, in his heart of hearts, to put it into action against his only rival and a foeman whom he knew to be entirely worthy of his steel. (Pocock, L. G. (2013) What Made Pompeius Fight in 49 BC?; Greece & Rome, Second Series, Vol. 6, No. 1(Mar., 1959), pp. 68-81. Cambridge University Press.)

Pompey couldn’t have done it without Cicero and Cicero started the chain reaction with Catiline.

What the aristocrats of the Senate were really afraid of was that someone would come along and attempt to redress the problems they refused to acknowledge or deal with and, sure enough, along came Lucius Sergius Catilina. Catilina was a member of an ancient, patrician family that had fallen into decline and he was determined to restore their wealth and influence. To do that, he needed to be elected to an annual consulship. Because, after you serve as consul, you are rewarded with the governorship of a province where you can go and steal all the stuff, tax the natives into oblivion, and basically just make like a pirate. So everyone was after a consulship followed by a governorship. A man could make such a fortune as governor that he could retire for the rest of his life and a few generations of his descendants as well, if they weren’t too wasteful. But there were only two consuls every year and the position was pretty much reserved to the aristocracy because you had to have a LOT of money to buy the votes. If there were some rich people who were not aristocrats who wanted some legislation that served a particular agenda of theirs, you might be financed in your vote buying in exchange for passing bills on their behalf (geeze, really does sound like politics in the US, doesn’t it?)

Catilina was apparently a magnetic and charismatic kind of guy who had attracted a lot of followers among the legions of commoners that were in debt and also including a large collection of other financially ruined aristocrats. The multi-millionaire, Crassus, decided to back Catilina’s bid for the consulship. For the entrenched aristocrats that ruled over the senate, this was a disaster because they had no candidate who had one tenth of the appeal of Catilina. The only person available who had anything like a following was the plebian Cicero. He was from a wealthy family and had been given a good education, but he was what the aristocrats called a “new man”. In over 300 years, no more than fifteen “new men” had ever been elected to the consulship – they were lucky if they advanced a single step in the hierarchy. Cicero was keenly aware of this and, six years earlier had written:

There is hardly one member of the old families who looks kindly on our activity; by no services that we render them can we capture their goodwill; they withhold from us their interest and sympathy as completely as if we and they were different breeds of men.

Cicero was no dummy. He saw the situation for what it was. He had spent three decades laboring through various political apprenticeships with members of the inner circle of the senate thanks to a family connection to the former consul and dictator, Marius, uncle to Julius Caesar. Thanks to his education and he was able to compete successfully with leading orators and had won the title of the “best orator in Rome”. It was clear that, in the beginning, he didn’t know which side his bread was going to be buttered on. He had alternated between maneuvering among elements of the commons and kissing backsides of influential oligarchs and, in this way, had managed to proceed through a series of magistracies to the point where, if he had any support at all, he would be eligible for the consulship and he saw that he was the only possible candidate that could beat Catilina – as did the senate oligarchs. So, Cicero had to do two things: rally his own support among those he had defended in the courts, his apprentice orators which included some young aristocrats, men of property whose backsides he had been kissing for years, AND the approval of that tiny clique within the senate who ran things.

In the six years that had passed since Cicero had been complaining about the attitudes of the nobles toward men of his class, the circumstances had turned in his favor. Sallust noted that:

Most of the nobles were consumed with jealousy and thought the office [of consul] in a way prostituted if a ‘new man’, however excellent, should obtain it. But when danger came, jealously and pride fell into the background.

As Kahn notes, oligarchies are always prepared to recruit leaders from outside their ranks to protect them from threats, whether external or from below.

But, oh dear! Cicero had a bit of a past that might make him look undesirable to them because he had shown some support for the commons at one point. Back in 65, Cicero had been desperate for allies and had offered to defend Catilina against charges of extortion. Cicero wrote in a letter at the time:

“We have the jury we want, with full cooperation from the prosecution. If he is acquitted, I hope he will be more inclined to work with me in the campaign [as a] loyal citizen, eager for the acquaintance of all the best men, and for a true and faithful friend.”

Nice, high sounding words, eh? Even in spite of the allusion to having bribed the prosecution. But Catilina was very proud; he wanted nothing to do with Cicero as a friend or as a campaign partner. So, Cicero forgot his characterization of Catilina as a magnetic person with “great vigor of mind and body” and only remembered his rejection.

Cicero called on his friend, Atticus (Titus Pomponius). Atticus was one of the wealthiest members of the equestrian class who was so disinterested in political life that he had acquired a reputation for fairness and generosity and was sought out for his advice on political matters by various men of influence.

Quintus Cicero, Cicero’s brother, quickly drafted a manual on “How to Win an Election” which summarized their private discussions about strategies about overcoming the “new man” handicap. Cicero would be mobilizing all his acquaintances and even his slaves to obtain endorsements of illustrious individuals. No potential vote could be ignored. He impressed the electorate by being constantly surrounded by a fawning crowd and he was to attend to all kinds of ingratiating details such as remembering names, occupations, displaying pleasing manners, being generous, probably kissing babies too. In short, it was all about image. Another angle was to send his friends to important people to lobby on his behalf, to persuade them that his political sympathies had grown up and had always been with the optimate senators. They were to explain that if he had ever displayed any “popular sympathies”, it was only a maneuver to attach Pompey to himself so as to have influence with him on behalf of the “good men” of the senate. Quintus emphasized that the senate must see Cicero as and upholder of its authority 100%, in short, dedicated to law and order. (Sound familiar?)

It was Atticus’ job to convince the aristocrats that Cicero’s true political tendencies were toward the optimates and their goals. If they brought up any of his lapses into popularism, he was to point out his other doings. For example, he was to quote that in the same year that Cicero had supported Pompey (who was always agitating for land reform to reward his soldiers), he had also said the following:

Never, I maintain, has a state offered so much as does ours, wherein if a man of humble birth shows in his life a character such as to support the high standing which rank confers, his advancement is dependent only on hard work and a blameless record.”

Obviously, the follow-up to this is that if a man fails to advance to wealth and power, he has only himself to blame. Contrast the above with what Cicero had written in a private letter about the hard-heartedness of the aristocrats. We see that Cicero has two distinct faces here.

In the campaign manual, Quintus concentrated on how to attack the other candidates, Catilina and Antonius. He was to denounce them as “two assassins from boyhood, both libertines, both paupers.” Antonius was “afraid of his own shadow” and unable to remember people’s names without a hired prompter. Catilina was a more serious threat so Quintus proposed that Cicero should play on the fears of the optimates by using Catilina’s indebtedness, willfulness and propensity to violence. He was to repeat as often as possible that Catilina was “born in his father’s beggary, bred in his sister’s debauchery, grown up in civil slaughter, his first entry into public life was a massacre of Roman knights [during the Sullan terror].”

The campaign did not proceed according to the wishes of the optimate senators or Cicero. Things must have been really bad for the masses of people to flock to Catilina in spite of Cicero’s demagoguery. The former was surrounded by crowds of followers whenever he entered the Forum and this scared the optimates. They recalled how radical tribunes had mounted demonstrations in previous years with packed assemblies of unhappy commoners as well as calling on collegia, organizations (club-type) of freedmen, slaves and the poor. These tribunes had proposed things like land redistribution, grain distribution to the starving, and, of all things, enfranchising others besides the wealthy elite or their wealthy clients!

So, the senate did what it did on many occasions: passed a reactionary bill. This is a funny thing about this much vaunted “democratic Roman Republic”. It didn’t have a written constitution and everything was done by “reaction”. They would claim constitutionality of this or that, but the instant it suited them, they changed the rules. It sounds absolutely crazy for a governing body to behave this way, to just willy-nilly make laws up on the spot, but that’s what they did. In this particular case, they passed a decree that all but a few “trustworthy” collegia were illegal and must be dissolved and never meet again. Then they passed a bill that limited the number of attendants a candidate could have in his entourage at any give time. I kid you not! They did dumb stuff like that! And is it any different from many of the laws that get passed today thanks to the fear of the PTB that the masses just might decide that they want a bigger piece of the economic pie?

Against these laws, Catilina and his sponsors, Crassus and Caesar, could do little. But, they had a tribune in office who vetoed a bill that was aimed at Catilina. As the tribune did so, he sneeringly told Cicero that he was unworthy of being consul. At this point, Cicero revealed his desperation to be accepted into the optimate club and more or less burned his populist bridge behind him. He denounced the tribune as an agent of a dark conspiracy and accusations of conspiracies became, at that moment, his stock-in-trade. It’s not known if this tactic was approved by his optimate advisors, but it is clear that, in Cicero’s mind, it was the solution. Having adopted the optimates as his new “home”, their thinking became his thinking with a voice. Anyone who threatened their hegemony, their security in their possessions and authority, literally threatened the state. And obviously, any such threat appearing in place after place, time after time, must be the product of a conspiracy. They couldn’t look at the reality and adduce that something really did need to be done or their entire system would collapse; they pulled on the blinders and refused to acknowledge that changes were needed.

So, having begun his campaign with outlandish innuendo and character defamation that developed into dark conspiracy, Cicero pushed this theme for his entire year as a consul and that is what led to the Catilinarian Conspiracy which should be renamed: the Ciceronian Conspiracy. In the atmosphere that prevailed in the senate at the time, the stubborn resistance to changes demanded by the discontented masses combined with the awareness that those masses could be dangerous to the health of the optimates, if someone yells “subversion!” or “conspiracy!” it’s going to anchor in their minds as the answer to problems. Such individuals cannot bear to acknowledge that there may be something wrong with the way they think or see things; they believe their own propaganda about the state being the greatest thing since time began and the overwhelming evidence of their vulnerability cannot be because the filthy rabble, the disgusting mob, has any legitimate complaint or even power; all the blame must go on individuals who are rabble rousers, demagogues, trouble-makers, jealous of their power and desiring to take it away from them.

At this point, Cicero was so taken by this idea that he decided to make immediate use of it. He made a speech in which he reported that the two other candidates had met the night before at the home of a distinguished, but unnamed nobleman, to pay huge sums for vote bribery agents. No one challenged him to reveal his sources. He then went the next step and “recalled” that this same candidate, i.e. Catiline, had been accused two years earlier of being involved in a conspiracy to murder the consuls elect. None of his listeners brought up the fact that one of the intended victims of the previous alleged plot, had been totally contemptuous of the charge and even offered to defend Catilina in a subsequent trial.

The suggestion was quite clear: Cicero was implying that Catilina was now involved in a new conspiracy along with powerful, unnamed nobles. This was the platform that Cicero used to mock, smear, and defame Caesar, Crassus, Antonius, and Catilina. He referred to the “New Marius” which everyone knew was Caesar, the “Sullan murderer” (Catiline), the victor over Spartacus (Crassus) supporting a bankrupt nobleman (Antonius) who had been heard to say that he would advocated a slave rebellion if he was ruined by his creditors. On he went: what about the threat to men of property from two bankrupts like Antonius and Catilina? Would they promote a cancellation of debts? What then? Land reform? New proscriptions and massacres? Civil War?

Against such a barrage of insinuation, speculation, ad-hominem demagoguery, there wasn’t much that Catiline or his backers could say or do. What good did it do for Catiline to point out that Cicero, the impassioned defender of the State, was a “new man”? Caesar couldn’t say much; an oligarch who drived most of his support from anti-senate elements could hardly prevail against the hysteria that was aroused by Cicero’s campaign against subversion and conspiracy.

Thanks to this last ditch assault on the popular cause that left no one in any doubt where Cicero’s sympathies lay, the optimate clique came to his support and with the maneuvers of Atticus, Cicero won. Antonius came in second, and Catilina was the loser by only a few votes.

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